BROADBAND, home phone, TV and mobile customers should be able to cancel their contracts penalty-free if providers fail to fix problems.
Telecoms firms have promised to let customers walk away without charge if they can't fix problems they've said they will deliver.
Broadband users have already had the right since March 1 to escape new contracts without charge where speeds drop below promised levels.
But now all major telecoms firms will have a "reasonable period" to put things right on any issue before customers can cancel, with firms expected to provide a "prompt response".
Under the industry-led pledge, providers have also said they will pay compensation for broken promises.
Broadband and home phone customers already get automatic compensation of £8 a day for lost service under rules that took force on April 1.
Boost your broadband speed
HERE are some top tips to boost your broadband speed from telecoms regulator Ofcom:
- Carry out a speed test using Ofcom accredited price comparison sites Broadband.co.uk, broadbandchoices.co.uk and Simplifydigital
- Talk to your broadband provider if there are problems in the first instance
- Update your web browser to the latest version
- Keep your router as far away as possible from other electrical devices that emit wireless signals, such as cordless phones and baby monitors as these can effect signal
- If you have an old router, consider upgrading it
- Password protect your broadband – if neighbours are accessing your wifi it could be slowing your speeds down
- Use an ethernet cable to connect your computer or laptop directly to the router rather than using wifi
- Plug your router directly into your home's main phone socket – extension leads can cause interference
- Fit a broadband acclerator to boost speeds
This year has seen massive outages at the likes of Virgin Media and Virgin Mobile so compensation will be welcome news for mobile and TV users who haven't previously been covered.
But this is a pledge by providers rather than rules set by the regulator so there's nothing forcing firms to comply.
This also means there's nothing set in stone to determine what a reasonable time frame is to fix problems and how much compensation will be paid (other than for broadband outages and speed problems as detailed above).
Each provider will determine this on a case-by-case basis.
Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at comparison service uSwitch.com, says it's "disappointing" that this is being done on a voluntary basis.
He said: “The requirement to treat customers fairly has not been baked into the telecoms rules as it has been for years in other sectors such as financial services and energy.
"It is therefore welcome news that Ofcom has managed to convince providers to sign up to this principle – although somewhat disappointing to do it on a voluntary basis rather than adding it to directly and firmly into industry regulations."
Ofcom says it will monitor companies’ practices closely and will step in where it sees firms falling short. A progress report is expected to be published next year.
Firms that have agreed to the new "Fairness for Customers commitments" are: BT, EE, GiffGaff, O2, Plusnet, Post Office, Sky, TalkTalk, Tesco Mobile, Three, Virgin Media, and Vodafone.
This covers the vast majority of broadband, mobile, pay TV and home phone customers.
Providers have also said they will ensure prices are clear, fair and easy to understand and will make sure communication with users displays options before, during, and at the end of their contract.
They will also be more understanding of customers with a vulnerability due to a disability, age, mental illness or having recently been bereaved.
While firms have agreed that customers can sign up to, change and leave their services more quickly and smoothly.
Later this year, mobile users will be allowed to switch provider simply by sending a text in a bid to make it easier to move.
Margot James, minister for digital, said: “I’m pleased that all the major telecoms providers have signed up to Ofcom’s commitments today.
"They will not only help consumers get fairer deals, but will support competition by making sure providers work to the same objectives and compete on standards.”
Caroline Normand, director of advocacy at consumer group Which?, added: "Confusing and unfair terms, poor customer support and overcharging are just some of the problems people tell us they have experienced.
"Providers now have the opportunity to make things right for their customers by committing to offer good service, fair treatment and a straightforward solution when things go wrong."
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